Executive Chat with Rebecca Patt
SVP Development at Wray Executive Search
Featuring Perry Ludy, VP Operations at Monkee’s Franchising
Perry Ludy is VP Operations at women’s boutique franchisor Monkee’s, based in Winston-Salem, NC. He brings over three decades of experience in franchising development and operations across multiple industries.
What is Monkee’s?
Monkee’s has 30 franchisees across nine different states in the Southeast. Monkee’s is a higher-end, women’s fashion boutique specializing in apparel, shoes, bags, and jewelry. Dee Dee Shaw and Brenda Maready started the company in 1996. They have grown it this far, and now they want to rapidly grow it into other states. We will be adding between five and seven locations per year, going forward.
What do you think makes it competitive with all the other upscale women’s retailers out there?
It’s a whole new different feel in retailing from the standpoint of the concept we try to build and make successful through our franchisees is that when you open the door, you feel comfortable. The service we give makes you feel good. The interiors are beautiful, and there are couches and chairs throughout where you can sit down and drink water, wine, or champagne and just chat while you shop. It gives a unique feel and a good approach on customer retention. Even as the e-commerce platforms are going around, you can’t get that feel through the computer that we give. We have customers that come back every season to see what is new.
It feels great to walk into a Monkee’s store with the plush vibe and intimate feeling. How did they get that feel?
The customers we find are unique. They are well-educated and love fashion. Something that would be on top of their list to do is to go shopping with their friends. We are trying to make sure our marketing and merchandising matches up with that.
How did you get involved?
My background is in franchising, and I worked at PepsiCo where I was a VP for Pizza Hut. I was responsible for 19 states and 1000 restaurants. Four hundred of those were franchised and 600 were company-owned and operated. In that environment, you learn a lot about the franchising side of things because you are ensuring that your teams are supporting the franchisees with marketing, profitability, and finding the best sites.
I became one of the largest Little Caesars franchisees when myself and a partner bought 59 locations. Through all of that, I started consulting. I wrote a book called Profit Building: Cutting Costs without Cutting People that was heavily endorsed by the restaurant industry. Then a lot of calls started coming in from restaurant franchisees and retail. It has been neat to pick-and-choose assignments. Fortunately, during the last 15 to 20 years there has always been the next assignment I’ve been able to take.
What are the growth plans for Monkee’s?
We are in a unique position because of how we attract customers. It’s a matter of finding the right communities and locations to put it in. We have brought on a very experienced franchise development director, Danielle Kimball, who is leading the recruiting of franchisees. We have built a franchise development website. We did our growth for the first 30 stores through word-of-mouth. We have been fortunate to grow it that way, but now are focusing on franchise development to help us get to the next step.
We are going to start speaking at the franchise conferences and going to the expos. We are upgrading our marketing to make sure our franchise owners are really taking advantage of direct mail and social media. We also have a merchandise person who works with the franchisees to help them with their buys. We kind of spoon feed them along. We customize our merchandise depending on what kind of market we are in and analyze the various products and lines that we have.
Who is your ideal franchisee and how many stores would they open?
For the most part, our franchisees have one store. We have one individual that has two stores in Kentucky and another looking to buy their second store. Some very successful franchisees are looking to at least explore opening different locations. We have a young lady in Greenville, SC, who runs our largest store. She is tremendously ahead of everyone else. She is doing magic and probably too busy to look at opening another store. We will start entertaining multi-unit franchisee candidates who have the wherewithal and experience to do that.
What are some of your other passions?
I love to cook. I have taken a lot of cooking courses, domestically and internationally. With my restaurant background, I have always had a passion for cooking. My wife and I love checking out vineyards and international travel. My hobby is writing [Perry also authored an international spy novel called The Third Medallion]. The books I talked to you about and a little bit of poetry as well. I’m working on a poem to send to the newspapers to talk about the democracy we are in now, in kind of an Edgar Allen Poe format. My wife and I are big supporters of the Boys and Girls Club. I have done some speaking engagements with them, and I usually sit on a couple of boards with them. I love watching basketball games. My team used to be the Lakers, now I kind of like Cleveland.
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